Labour bites

Pay parity an issue everywhere

A potential strike has been in the air for weeks in New York City’s preschools and the issue is equal pay. Michelle Paige, the associate executive director of University Settlement’s early childhood education division, wrote in a letter to parents on Friday. “Despite University Settlement’s advocacy efforts, the early childhood employees are still fighting for salaries that support their professional dedication to the education and care of our children.”

Universal pre-kindergarten is one of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature programs, and it has extra significance now, amidst reports that the mayor is seriously considering a run for president.

Teachers employed by community run preschools and day cares say they’re getting paid less than their peers in public schools, even though they’re part of the same pre-k program. According to one spokesperson, teachers at community run programs in New York make $15,000 to $30,000 less than comparably trained educators in public schools. (Source: Intelligencer)

Ontario massive rally to protest cuts

More than 30,000 teachers, parents and students gathered at the seat of government in Toronto on April 5 to protest impending changes to the province’s education system.

The rally was organised by members from five different teachers’ unions and utilised 150 busses.

“We want to make sure that our voices are heard. We want to make sure students know that we are fighting for them and that we care about them,” said one protester.

The protest comes in the wake of the provincial government’s decision to increase average required class sizes in intermediate and high school grades, introduce mandatory elearning modules and cut at least 3475 full time teaching positions.

Ontario School boards have warned the revisions could lead to classes with up to 40 students and result in various electives being cancelled altogether. The fallout could be compounded by an overhaul of Ontario’s autism program, which will likely see schools trying to cope with a sudden infusion of students with challenging needs

In a statement, Education Minister Lisa Thompson said the government would not be “distracted by union tactics” such as protests and rallies building on her claim that “bigger class sizes will make students more resilient.” (Source CBC)

Winning the right to belong to a union

The University of California has dropped its objections and recognised a union of academic researchers at their campuses coming to an agreement on who can be included in Academic Researchers United. (ARU)

At the centre of the union’s mission is the treatment of staff scientists in comparison to academic faculty. “Academic researchers (ARs) have no say in how our careers are administered by the University, facing bureaucratic hurdles that restrict our applications for funding, mentoring of students, and obtaining health and other benefits,” states ARU. “Unlike faculty members, ARs must prepare grant proposals and perform university service on our own unpaid time.”

The union came together as Academic Researchers United, in association with the United Auto Workers (UAW), reports STAT. ARU’s mission is to “improve the AR experience at UC and increase the political voice of researchers locally and nationally,” as stated on the ARU website. Academic researchers include staff with the titles of project scientist, specialist, professional researcher, and coordinator of public programs, totalling about 5000 employees.

Other academics have, through their union, already secured their first contract with collectively bargained benefits including minimum salary and parental leave. Bargaining between UC and the ARU is expected to begin in May. (Source: The Scientist)

ABCC targets workers

Australia’s construction industry watchdog has launched unprecedented action against more than 50 steelworkers from Liberty OneSteel who walked off the job over three days last year, including to attend a large scale union rally in Melbourne’s CBD.

The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) filed legal action on Friday alleging 53 workers engaged in “unlawful industrial action” on the day of the national union movement’s Change the Rule rallies. The rallies argued the nation’s workplace laws are ‘broken’ and weighted too far in favour of employers, while workers struggled to receive wage rises.

Union leaders questioned why the laws governing the building sector were being applied to manufacturing workers.

“That the ABCC can go after steelworkers who are neither building nor construction workers just goes to show that the ABCC is a politically motivated agency not about improving the construction industry,” said Ben Davis, Victorian secretary of the Australian Workers Union.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said the steelworkers had a democratic right to attend political protests without being pursued by ‘politicised’ government agencies.

“The Morrison government is threatening to fine working people $42,000 for exercising their democratic right to protest,” she said. (Source: Brisbane Times)

Compiled by John Quessy